Updated at 12:43 p.m.
The Nationals placed reliever Todd Coffey on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain this morning and recalled right-hander Collin Balester from Class AAA Syracuse to replace him.
Coffey hadn't pitched since April 8, when he tossed a scoreless inning against the Mets in New York. The move, then, is retroactive to the next day, which means he'll be eligible to return from the DL on April 24.
The 30-year-old right-hander was doing conditioning work Wednesday when he felt a cramp in his lower leg. A little while later, it began to feel worse.
"By the time I walked in here, I thought: 'That's a little more than a cramp,'" Coffey said. "The doc looked at it, got checked out a couple times. It's just a small strain. It's just a day-to-day type of thing, but in the bullpen, you can't be day-to-day."
Coffey, who was 1-0 with a 6.23 ERA in five total appearances, said he has no trouble throwing off a mound. The problem arises when he has to field his position.
"If someone laid a bunt on me, I'm going to be just looking at it," he said. "I'm not going to be able to cover it, I'm not going to be able to get it. So we just want to get it back to where I can cover my position."
Though Coffey tried to convince team officials he could avoid the DL, they didn't want to take a chance, especially with today's doubleheader.
"I'm afraid if I pitch him, we might lose him for three weeks," manager Jim Riggleman said. "So basically we're just going to be real conservative about it. ... I didn't really want to get caught up in a doubleheader today where if he wasn't used in the first game and I used quite a bit of people, and he's needed in the second game and couldn't go, we could get stuck."
Balester had been off to a strong start at Syracuse, pitching five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out six. He last pitched Monday, throwing two scoreless innings against Lehigh Valley.
The 24-year-old made a compelling case to make the Opening Day roster after a fantastic spring but was a victim of the options game. Balester, who went 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 17 games last September, said he understood he'd likely get a chance to return to the majors before long.
"After I pitched in spring training, I felt like I was good enough to make the team," he said. "It helped me keep a great attitude and keep my head up, and I was able to go down there and pitch well. I knew at some point they were going to need me, even if was September. I just played hard and came up earlier than I thought."